#60 Freedom: The Last Chapter

 

Editors Note: We asked Tikie to write a last chapter for his story as we began re-publication of his original blog posts. The following post was written by Tikie in July 2017, at our request, and is being published here, with his permission, for the first time.

Freedom- The Last Chapter

Two question frequently asked me, by those few who know of my involvement in a sociological cult (MCM), are:

“How did someone like you get sucked into such a thing?”

and/or,

“How did you break free?’

To the former question there is no easy answer.

Steve Hassan and Jana Lailah, both recognized experts and former cult members, cite statistics showing a cult member, on average, has a higher IQ, and comes from a higher socio-economic background, than the average American. And therein lies one key. Very ambitious people sometimes overestimate their intelligence. They think , “No one can take advantage of me.” But vulnerability to cult membership is not determined by intelligence, but by psychological needs, according to both Hassan and Lalich.

One thing common amongst new recruits is that they are at a crossroads or transitional phase in their life, write Lalich and Hassan. The new recruit may have moved, or have problems at school, or been cut off by their family, or like I was; dissatisfied with their religion as it is being practiced

Noted expert Margaret Sanger writes:

This process of feigning friendship and interest in the recruit was originally associated with one of the early youth cults. Love bombing is a coordinated effort, usually under the direction of leadership, that involves long-term members’ flooding recruits and newer members with flattery, verbal seduction, affectionate but usually nonsexual touching, and lots of attention to their every remark.

Thus recruiters identify a need the recruit has, then uses the group’s solution as bait on the hook and pours on the love. The group then helps the member convince himself/herself that  the recruit’s needs will be met as a result of joining and accepting the credo.

In the end these recruits join sociological cults because they want to join. This is no mere tautology.

Since the group has convinced the member to convince themselves to join this makes it difficult for the member to leave since they themselves provided the motivation to join and stay. The recruit is in because they want to be in, not because they have been duped.

As I related, with help from MCM, I convinced myself that MCM was building a true first century church, one that I had longed and hoped for. Then MCM added a communal, and dedicated, group of friends combined  with a special mission. Then they mixed in special language which isolated me from former friends while creating strong bonds between me and the members. But the decision my decision to join MCM was voluntary and mine alone!

And that is why some ex-MCMers cling to the myth that MCM was a good thing. They voluntarily joined and decided to continue to deceive themselves.

As to how I left MCM?

I left the same way I got in. I convinced myself that MCM was evil and that its values were in opposition to the ideal church I thought I had joined.

But perhaps the most important question is not why I eventually walked out of MCM but what took me so long to leave.

As you have seen it was clear from the very beginning that I had doubts about MCM.

But any doubts I had were repressed…because of the constant drumbeat of MCM sermons and studies and because our true thoughts and doubts were kept isolated from other members. This need for keeping any doubts from being expressed is why MCM, and other cults, jump on any verbalized doubts with both feet.

I assumed that my doubts were due to my own failings and sin.  If a few of us, at Auburn, had openly shared our doubts and concerns with each other then perhaps MCM, at least at Auburn, might have folded far sooner than it did.

By isolating the member from their doubts, and from outside friendship, while simultaneously, providing new  loving relationships, MCM kept members in line and within the group. Long after I realized that MCM was a terrible mistake I simply could not bear to leave my adopted family.

 So when I consider why I stayed in so long it was because of the deep friendships and the bonds I developed, not the theology.

Of course I freely admit my own ambition and drive kept me in the group. My recruiter and Bob Weiner used this ambition, one of my sure strengths, as a weapon against me. And I happily pulled the trigger, so to speak .

In the end, though, my conscience would not allow me to continue to abuse people in the name of MCM and God.

However, I have a nightmare that goes like this:

What if money had been pouring into the ministry I started in the Great Send Out ? Would I have  become like the MCM pastors who hung in there until MCM imploded? Would I have been a Rice Brooks or Phil Bonasso and worked to resurrect the beast, but under a different name? I pray that would not have been the case, but this line of thought keeps me humble. I must tell you I am so thankful that the ministry I started was financially strapped from the beginning and heading for insolvency.

**********

The process of leaving MCM physically was very hard, but leaving mentally was even harder. Thanks to Sissy and Dr. Carl I was able to get on my feet and begin shaking off the shackles I had wound around my spirit and mind.

After Sissy and I were married (some three years post MCM) I simply tried to bury the past, and if I thought of it at all it was with revulsion.

But my experiences in MCM continued to burden me. The anger at losing four of the best years of my life in what seemed an evil cause weighed on me and my conscience.

Those thoughts drove me to finally confront my experience head on.

Reading books by Steve Hassan, Margaret Sanger, and by my favorite expert, Janja Lalich, finally helped me understand what had happened to me, and why. I learned my experience was not an isolated one but one shared by many others.

And Dr. Lalich’s revelation that I was a coconspirator in my own entrapment, counterintuitive though this might seem, liberated me from the anger and guilt I felt.

In fact after this revelation I attended two conferences where Dr. Lalich spoke. Hearing her talk about her own cultic experience, so different in many ways, but yet so similar to those of mine, helped me greatly. Once again a left wing atheist played a role in liberating me from my past and from MCM.

This entire process of  being truly liberated took me about ten years. Other ex-Members of MCM, like Allie, simply walked away without a seeming second thought.

But for me, and I suspect, for others, it was much harder than this.

Interestingly, studies of Scientology show that, on average, it takes ex-members about ten years to recover psychologically from their experience in this group.

But the truth is that for me, MCM, and the wound it left on my heart and soul, will never go away 100%.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote of his experience some forty years earlier as a youth in the American Civil War:

It was as if we had been burned by fire.

And so it is with me.

I pray that my story has been of some help to those who took the time to join me in the recounting of my journey into, and out of, MCM.

Tik Tok , August 2017, Boston MA